Top 18 African Heads of State on Twitter: it’s a mixed bag

Wondering which African Heads of States are big on Twitter in 2017? We have the answer for you in this blog post, where we picked the top 18 based on Twitter followers as at 7 July.

We are using old-fashioned spreadsheets to present the results for numbers of  Twitter followers as a constant, compared to a mix of five different variables.

Twitter Follower Count of Top 18 African Heads of States

Here they are:

Our analysis shows that President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, where a rerun of presidential elections is due to take place in October of 2017 due to a court judgment that ruled that the first round held in August was null and void, leads the top 18 by number of followers.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who won the presidential race by a landslide only days ago, is in the second spot.

3 Heads of State from East Africa are in the top 5 – Presidents Kenyatta (1), Kagame (2) and Museveni (5).

Heads of State from Nigeria and Egypt – Presidents Buhari and el-Sisi whose countries are also in the top 3 most populous in Africa – complete the top 5.

Most of the 18 Heads of State’s Twitter handles are verified, which confirms they are the correct accounts.

In an attempt to understand reasons why the identified 18 of the 54 African Heads of States made it onto our Twitter chart, we analysed 10 variables for possible correlations. 

Theses are tweeting activities, ages of the top 18, their tenures, regions on the continent, dominant languages, country populations, Internet penetration rankings, democracy index rankings and GDP rankings. 

We present the comparative stats for each of the 10 variables in the rest of this post.

Tweeting Activity By Top 18 African Heads of States

Can tweeting activity of the top 18 African Heads of States tell us something about their popularity? Let’s have a look.

When comparing the two rankings, there does not seem to be a direct relationship between tweeting activity and number of followers

Thus, Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta from Kenya and Yoweri Museveni from Uganda – whose tweeting and follower rankings are the same – are exceptions.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma – whose account was opened in May 2011 – has published only 100 tweets to date, and the last tweet was on 6 October 2013. For all intents and purposes, this Twitter handle has been abandoned, and yet it has the 6th highest number of followers in the top 18. 

We guess President Zuma has been so in the news lately, thanks to his relationship with the Guptas, that Tweeps hope they will hear from him directly about the whole drama. So far DOLOLO (as they say in South African colloquial)!

President Johan Magufuli of Tanzania is in the bottom three most active Heads of States with 178 tweets in the 8th position by number of followers. His last tweet was published on 7 September 2017. 

Worth noting that he is one of the (very) few Presidents in the whole continent who tweets in an indigenous language

Given his style of leadership, where he would prefer for his countrymen to hear directly from him, we were expecting that he would also be very active on Twitter. Having said that, he only joined Twitter in July of 2015. 

Was this in anticipation of winning the elections that took place at the end of October 2015? Maybe.

Age (Yrs)

Given the skew of social media to younger users generally, we analysed the ages of the top 18 Heads of States to see if this variable plays a role.

Guinea is the only country where age of the Head of State ranks the same as the number of followers. Other than this exception, there does not seem to be a clear link between numbers of Twitter followers and ages of the top 18.

Faure E. Gnassingbe of Togo – where the Internet was switched off by the government in early September 2017 – is the youngest president, but he is also the second last in the top 18 by number of Twitter followers.

President Nkurunziza of Burundi – who was recently embroiled in a controversy related to the extension of his stay in office – is the second youngest Head of State, and is thirteenth by number of Twitter followers.

President Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia is the oldest Head of State and is also in the fifteenth spot by number of Twitter followers.

Tenure (Yrs)

Does tenure have anything to do with the top 18 Heads of State’s numbers of Twitter followers? Let’s check.

There are no direct correlations between tenures and any of the top 18 African Heads of States.

Overall, most of the Heads of States have been in office for less than 10 years. 

If the African states in the top 18 that are subscribing to the democratic rule observed the two-term presidency limit that is a cornerstone of this system, this would not be worth mentioning. 

However, this is not the case for the bottom 5 Heads by tenure, who are from the democratic states.

There does not seem to be a clear link between this variable and numbers of Twitter followers.


What about country locations of the top 18?

Most of the countries in the top 18 come from West Africa, followed by East Africa. Does this tell us anything? Leave a comment below.

The percentage of verified Twitter handles from the two leading regions makes for an interesting read. Check the table above to see what we mean.

Dominant Foreign Languages

Africa is dominated by two foreign languages – English and French. As a result, these 2 languages are used to divide the continent into mainly Anglophone countries (mainly East and Southern Africa) and Francophone countries (mainly Central and Western Africa).

Our experience is that English is the dominant language on Twitter. Does this have any influence on the showing by the African countries of the top 18 Heads of States? 

Let’s find out!

Only 8 of the countries where the top 18 Heads of States come from speak English. However, the bulk of Twitter followers come from these 8 countries.

The foreign language rankings do not conclusively indicate that English has a bearing on the countries in the top 18.

Country Populations

The next variable we analyse is the country populations of top 18 Heads of State. Let’s have a look.

There are direct correlations only for Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo – 3 out of 18.

Here too, there is no overall clear evidence that sizes of African country populations are directly linked to the sizes of Heads of State’s Twitter followers, despite Nigeria and Egypt being at the top of the Populations table and their Heads of State in the top 5 by Twitter Followers.

Internet Penetration Rankings

Can Internet penetration rankings – that is the number of Internet users as a percentage of country populations – explain the stacking of the top 18 African Heads of States?

Direct correlations are found only for Kenya, Nigeria and Niger – 3 out of 18.

Overall, the lack of the clear correlation between Twitter follower and Internet penetration rankings continues.

Democracy Index Rankings

The second last variable we analyse to see if there is any correlation is Democracy Index. 

Our theory here is that Heads of States of most democratic countries embrace social media more. 

For this purpose, we used the democracy index report of 2016 by The Economist. The report allocates scores out of 10 to countries of the world, including in Africa.

Let’s see below if our theory is correct, comparing follower and democracy rankings.

Direct correlations are found only for Gabon and Guinea – 2 out of 18.  The correlation for Rwanda is almost inverse.

GDP Per Capita Rankings

With the 10th and the last variable we test if there is any link between the top 18 African Heads of States’ follower rankings and their countries’ GDP per capita.

There are direct correlations for Ghana, Senegal and Guinea – 3 out of 18.

Rankings of the GPD per capita of the remaining 15 countries and their Heads of States’ Twitter followers do not match.

Our Finding

Excluding the few exceptions that were pointed out where relevant, there is no direct correlation between the any of the 10 variables covered in this post and the top 18 African Heads of States on Twitter by followers.

Our Conclusion

We suspect that Twitter follower numbers have been higher for some of the top 18 African Heads of States because they have been in the news a lot over the years, and on a fair number of occasions for the wrong reasons. 

Think of Presidents Zuma (South Africa – pending corruption charges), Buhari (Nigeria – the absent President), Nkurunziza (Burundi – refusal to step down in line with the constitution), Gnassimbe (Togo – one-party dominant state run like a dynasty), Museveni (Uganda – alleged rigging of elections), Kagame (Rwanda – alleged despot) and Kenyatta (Kenya – the ICC case).

It is also our impression that some of the political leaders do not fully embrace social media, if at all. 

This could explain why President Mulatu Teshome of Ethiopia, the country with the second largest population on the continent, does not tweet.

Mulatu Teshome Twitter Feed | July 2017

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